Are You Job Hopping?

By Joe Stein

For some in Western New York, being in a job search is not something that is new to them.  These individuals have grown accustomed to being in the mode of looking for a new position.  People who have gone from one position to another after relatively short tenures are often referred to by prospective employers as a “job hopper”.  This is a reason why anyone with a current position must clearly determine if moving to a new position is the right decision to make at the current time.

You may be asking yourself when does someone become labeled as a “job hopper?”  Although there is no set time frame, a general rule of thumb is any stop that consists of two or less years of employment (outside of very entry-level type of positions).  The more of these short stints (ex. 4 jobs in 10 years), the more the odds increase that you will be perceived as a “job hopper”.

There is a thought that employers are becoming more understanding towards those who are “job hoppers”.  Overall, I do believe, due to the challenging economy, there is a greater sensitivity to those who have lost their positions because of the economy. For the most part, however, those who have moved around frequently are still looked upon less favorably than those who have been more stable.

You may be questioning why there is so much negativity around “job hopping”.  After all, New York is an employment at-will state and an employee can decide to leave, just like an employer can end the relationship.  The following are some of the reasons why employers frown on frequent employment movement.

• You are Going to Do It To Them – It is quite reasonable to think that since you have moved around quite a bit that you will wish to do the same in this organization.  This may leave them in a very tough bind replacing you, depending on when you choose to leave.

• It Takes Time to Hire – There are very few Hiring Managers who enjoy the process of interviewing and hiring new staff.  For most, it is a part of the job they wish they could avoid, just concentrate on the day-to-day activities of getting the work done.  The tasks of having to review resumes and interview take valuable time away from that goal.

• It Looks Bad – In many companies, supervisors are graded by their voluntary turnover.  A Department that is struggling with people leaving may have extra scrutiny from Sr. Management.  All the more reason for a Hiring Manager to be cautious with someone who they believe has done some “job hopping”.

• Training Costs Money – There are multiple ways training can be expensive in most positions beyond the very entry level. This includes the cost of the trainer and any related materials, your wages while you are not at peak productivity, and the cost of someone else who is picking up your lost productivity (perhaps while on overtime).  In any event, training a new person is an expensive proposition, and most companies would prefer not to be constantly repeating it.

So what should you do if you have been a “job hopper”?  The best advice is not to get yourself in that type of position, but assuming you are already there, I will focus on some options you can consider.

• Stress Future Stability – Now this may be a situation where you might not have the greatest credibility based on your past record.  It is still important to stress that you plan to stay if offered the position.  It may be that you have learned some lessons from earlier in your career that the “grass is not always greener”, or this is the company and industry you have always wanted to join.  This is a way to try to switch your inconsistent work history and make it a potential positive to the interviewer. A key is to sound as sincere as possible in whatever direction you decide to go in.

• Have Good Reasons For Leaving – Try to not always pick the same reasons, as the Hiring Manager may conclude that this is a habitual behavior of yours.  It is ok to change jobs over pay, just don’t have that as your reason for every position or your prospective employer may think you are going to jump for the next 25 cents an hour raise. Instead, focus on how you obtained more responsibility or experience as you moved positions.  If possible, try to tie it all together as part of a larger career progression plan.

• Don’t Be Negative – When questioned about your departures from an organization, do not start complaining about your past organizations and previous supervisors.  I never advocate lying to an interviewer, so instead focus on other reasons for leaving than just your supervisor at each stop.  The other item to think about (if this has been an issue at most steps) is what you can personally learn from the situation and what you can change about yourself.

• Don’t Focus on Dates – You may attempt to just focus on years and not months when compiling your resume.  This may allow you to avoid career stops that were only weeks or months (if you have those types of tenures).  A Functional Resume may be something to consider in this situation.

The reality is that no “job hopping” situation is completely the same as another.  You will need to closely examine your situation and create a workable game plan to address any potential concerns that your future employer may encounter.